Three months ago, Adolf posted on the subject of Churchill's account of 'The River War' in which he chronicled the events leading up to the British reconquest of Khartoum and the avenging of General Gordon's death at the hands of the Islamists. In the comments thread, George recommended I get hold of Churchill's other early book, 'The Story Of The Malakand Field Force.'
Thus began a bureaucratic saga.
Adolf lodged an online request for said epistle with the local library which eventually provided the news that this book was not available. So the telephone became the next line of technological attack. As a result, the good people at the library were able to spend a little time and report that no Malakands were able to be found anywhere in South Australia. Strange, I thought. This is the most arid state in Australia so you would think it had much in common with Afghanistan but apparently not so.
A couple of weeks later the helpful lady rang back to tell be she could get the book on loan from Canberra for two weeks and the fee would be only $17.00. I quietly let her know that she need not bother as the last time I bought a paperback it cost less than her two weeks borrower's fee.
Before heading off to Fiji last month we visited the local second hand book shop and enquired of the late fifties or so north country Pommy lady behind the counter as to the availability of 'Malakand.' Her staggering reply - "Was Winston Churchill an author? I didn't know he wrote any books!"
I remarked politely on her lack of education and 'put her right' so to speak, after which she was able to inform me she didn't know how to use the computer so she couldn't say whether they had it or not but 'Don't worry, the boss will be back nest week and she'll give you a ring.' Of course 'next week' we were sunning ourselves in Fiji so I arranged to receive the good news after we returned.
Blow me down with a feather, the good lady boss duly called to say she had a brand new copy of a 2010 unabridged paperback edition for $21.00.
Fantastic. One chapter per day extends the pleasure and yes, George it IS a cracking yarn.
It is quite bizarre to read the names of places which have been front and centre in our daily news for this last couple of years or so, such as the Swat Valley.
Whatever their faults, the Poms knew how to run a colony in those days.